Growing up somewhere like Frankston can be tough, especially for a teenager, says local schoolgirl Paige. Coming from one of Melbourne’s lowest socio-economic suburbs, she says you’re stamped with a label, people assume that you’ll drop out of school, that you’re going to commit crime, that you’re not going to amount to much.
In can almost seem easier to conform to that stereotype than to challenge it, she says. Paige is taking part in Project O, a family violence prevention initiative for girls aged 10 to 16 in Frankston. It involves them to work with mentors to make art, learn new digital skills and to tell their stories, in the process building confidence and opening their minds to possibility.
Created by social impact arts organisation Bighart, it is targeted at regional, remote and high needs communities around Australia. Frankston North has the third highest crime rate in Victoria, high rates of unemployment and high rates of violence against women.
The Frankston program operates in Mahogany Rise Primary School and Monterey Secondary College and is run by actor Natalie O’Donnell, along with two workshop facilitators. Some girls opt into the program, others are recommended for it by teachers and principals. The end result is a range of young women involved, with an array of experiences and backgrounds; they meet at least three times a week during the school year.